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Excerpt: "The report presents a large body of peer-reviewed scientific and other authoritative evidence of the hazards to health and the environment posed by genetically engineered crops and organisms (GMOs)."

A Thai organic farmer pretends to be dead after eating GM corn during a protest against the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to Thailand outside the Government House in Bangkok in 2004. (photo: Food Freedom)
A Thai organic farmer pretends to be dead after eating GM corn during a protest against the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to Thailand outside the Government House in Bangkok in 2004. (photo: Food Freedom)



Genetic Engineers Report: GMO Food Is Dangerous

By Open Earth Source

02 July 12

 

ren't critics of genetically engineered food anti-science? Isn't the debate over GMOs (genetically modified organisms) a spat between emotional but ignorant activists on one hand and rational GM-supporting scientists on the other?

A new report released today, "GMO Myths and Truths",[1] challenges these claims. The report presents a large body of peer-reviewed scientific and other authoritative evidence of the hazards to health and the environment posed by genetically engineered crops and organisms (GMOs).

Unusually, the initiative for the report came not from campaigners but from two genetic engineers who believe there are good scientific reasons to be wary of GM foods and crops.

One of the report's authors, Dr Michael Antoniou of King's College London School of Medicine in the UK, uses genetic engineering for medical applications but warns against its use in developing crops for human food and animal feed.

Dr Antoniou said: "GM crops are promoted on the basis of ambitious claims - that they are safe to eat, environmentally beneficial, increase yields, reduce reliance on pesticides, and can help solve world hunger.

"I felt what was needed was a collation of the evidence that addresses the technology from a scientific point of view.

"Research studies show that genetically modified crops have harmful effects on laboratory animals in feeding trials and on the environment during cultivation. They have increased the use of pesticides and have failed to increase yields. Our report concludes that there are safer and more effective alternatives to meeting the world's food needs."

Another author of the report, Dr John Fagan, is a former genetic engineer who in 1994 returned to the National Institutes of Health $614,000 in grant money due to concerns about the safety and ethics of the technology. He subsequently founded a GMO testing company.

Dr Fagan said: "Crop genetic engineering as practiced today is a crude, imprecise, and outmoded technology. It can create unexpected toxins or allergens in foods and affect their nutritional value. Recent advances point to better ways of using our knowledge of genomics to improve food crops, that do not involve GM.

"Over 75% of all GM crops are engineered to tolerate being sprayed with herbicide. This has led to the spread of herbicide-resistant superweeds and has resulted in massively increased exposure of farmers and communities to these toxic chemicals. Epidemiological studies suggest a link between herbicide use and birth defects and cancer.

"These findings fundamentally challenge the utility and safety of GM crops, but the biotech industry uses its influence to block research by independent scientists and uses its powerful PR machine to discredit independent scientists whose findings challenge this approach."

The third author of the report, Claire Robinson, research director of Earth Open Source, said, "The GM industry is trying to change our food supply in far-reaching and potentially dangerous ways. We all need to inform ourselves about what is going on and ensure that we - not biotechnology companies - keep control of our food system and crop seeds.

"We hope our report will contribute to a broader understanding of GM crops and the sustainable alternatives that are already working successfully for farmers and communities."

Notes

The report, "GMO Myths and Truths, An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops", by Michael Antoniou, PhD, Claire Robinson, and John Fagan, PhD is published by Earth Open Source (June 2012). The report is 123 pages long and contains over 600 citations, many of them from the peer-reviewed scientific literature and the rest from reports by scientists, physicians, government bodies, industry, and the media. The report is available here:

Key points from the report

  1. Genetic engineering as used in crop development is not precise or predictable and has not been shown to be safe. The technique can result in the unexpected production of toxins or allergens in food that are unlikely to be spotted in current regulatory checks.

  2. GM crops, including some that are already in our food and animal feed supply, have shown clear signs of toxicity in animal feeding trials - notably disturbances in liver and kidney function and immune responses.

  3. GM proponents have dismissed these statistically significant findings as "not biologically relevant/significant", based on scientifically indefensible arguments.

  4. Certain EU-commissioned animal feeding trials with GM foods and crops are often claimed by GM proponents to show they are safe. In fact, examination of these studies shows significant differences between the GM-fed and control animals that give cause for concern.
  5. GM foods have not been properly tested in humans, but the few studies that have been carried out in humans give cause for concern.

  6. The US FDA does not require mandatory safety testing of GM crops, and does not even assess the safety of GM crops but only "deregulates" them, based on assurances from biotech companies that they are "substantially equivalent" to their non-GM counterparts. This is like claiming that a cow with BSE is substantially equivalent to a cow that does not have BSE and is thus safe to eat! Claims of substantial equivalence cannot be justified on scientific grounds.

  7. The regulatory regime for GM foods is weakest in the US, where GM foods do not even have to be assessed for safety or labelled in the marketplace, but in most regions of the world regulations are inadequate to protect people's health from the potential adverse effects of GM foods.

  8. In the EU, where the regulatory system is often claimed to be strict, minimal pre-market testing is required for a GMO and the tests are commissioned by the same companies that stand to profit from the GMO if it is approved - a clear conflict of interest.

  9. No long-term toxicological testing of GMOs on animals or testing on humans is required by any regulatory agency in the world.

  10. Biotech companies have used patent claims and intellectual property protection laws to restrict access of independent researchers to GM crops for research purposes. As a result, limited research has been conducted on GM foods and crops by scientists who are independent of the GM industry. Scientists whose work has raised concerns about the safety of GMOs have been attacked and discredited in orchestrated campaigns by GM crop promoters.

  11. Most GM crops (over 75%) are engineered to tolerate applications of herbicides. Where such GM crops have been adopted, they have led to massive increases in herbicide use.

  12. Roundup, the herbicide that over 50% of all GM crops are engineered to tolerate, is not safe or benign as has been claimed but has been found to cause malformations (birth defects), reproductive problems, DNA damage, and cancer in test animals. Human epidemiological studies have found an association between Roundup exposure and miscarriage, birth defects, neurological development problems, DNA damage, and certain types of cancer.

  13. A public health crisis has erupted in GM soy-producing regions of South America, where people exposed to spraying with Roundup and other agrochemicals sprayed on the crop report escalating rates of birth defects and cancer.

  14. A large number of studies indicate that Roundup is associated with increased crop diseases, especially infection with Fusarium, a fungus that causes wilt disease in soy and can have toxic effects on humans and livestock.

  15. Bt insecticidal GM crops do not sustainably reduce pesticide use but change the way in which pesticides are used: from sprayed on, to built in.

  16. Bt technology is proving unsustainable as pests evolve resistance to the toxin and secondary pest infestations are becoming common.

  17. GM proponents claim that the Bt toxin engineered into GM plants is safe because the natural form of Bt, long used as a spray by conventional and organic farmers, has a history of safe use. But the GM forms of Bt toxins are different from the natural forms and could have different toxic and allergenic effects.

  18. GM Bt toxin is not limited in its toxicity to insect pests. GM Bt crops have been found to have toxic effects on laboratory animals in feeding trials.

  19. GM Bt crops have been found to have toxic effects on non-target organisms in the environment.

  20. Bt toxin is not fully broken down in digestion and has been found circulating in the blood of pregnant women in Canada and in the blood supply to their foetuses.

  21. The no-till method of farming promoted with GM herbicide-tolerant crops, which avoids ploughing and uses herbicides to control weeds, is not more climate-friendly than ploughing. No-till fields do not store more carbon in the soil than ploughed fields when deeper levels of soil are measured.

  22. No-till increases the negative environmental impacts of soy cultivation, because of the herbicides used.

  23. Golden Rice, a beta-carotene-enriched rice, is promoted as a GM crop that could help malnourished people overcome vitamin A deficiency. But Golden Rice has not been tested for toxicological safety, has been plagued by basic development problems, and, after more than 12 years and millions of dollars of research funding, is still not ready for the market. Meanwhile, inexpensive and effective solutions to vitamin A deficiency are available but under-used due to lack of funding.

  24. GM crops are often promoted as a "vital tool in the toolbox" to feed the world's growing population, but many experts question the contribution they could make, as they do not offer higher yields or cope better with drought than non-GM crops. Most GM crops are engineered to tolerate herbicides or to contain a pesticide - traits that are irrelevant to feeding the hungry.

  25. High adoption of GM crops among farmers is not a sign that the GM crop is superior to non-GM varieties, as once GM companies gain control of the seed market, they withdraw non-GM seed varieties from the market. The notion of "farmer choice" does not apply in this situation.

  26. GM contamination of non-GM and organic crops has resulted in massive financial losses by the food and feed industry, involving product recalls, lawsuits, and lost markets.

  27. When many people read about high-yielding, pest- and disease-resistant, drought-tolerant, and nutritionally improved super-crops, they think of GM. In fact, these are all products of conventional breeding, which continues to outstrip GM in producing such crops. The report contains a long list of these conventional crop breeding successes.

  28. Certain "supercrops" have been claimed to be GM successes when in fact they are products of conventional breeding, in some cases assisted by the non-GM biotechnology of marker assisted selection.

  29. Conventional plant breeding, with the help of non-GM biotechnologies such as marker assisted selection, is a safer and more powerful method than GM to produce new crop varieties required to meet current and future needs of food production, especially in the face of rapid climate change.

  30. Conventionally bred, locally adapted crops, used in combination with agroecological farming practices, offer a proven, sustainable approach to ensuring global food security.

About the authors

Michael Antoniou, PhD is reader in molecular genetics and head, Gene Expression and Therapy Group, King's College London School of Medicine, London, UK. He has 28 years' experience in the use of genetic engineering technology investigating gene organisation and control, with over 40 peer reviewed publications of original work, and holds inventor status on a number of gene expression biotechnology patents. Dr Antoniou has a large network of collaborators in industry and academia who are making use of his discoveries in gene control mechanisms for the production of research, diagnostic and therapeutic products and human somatic gene therapies for inherited and acquired genetic disorders.

John Fagan, PhD is a leading authority on sustainability in the food system, biosafety, and GMO testing. He is founder and chief scientific officer of a GMO testing and certification company. He is a director of Earth Open Source. Earlier, he conducted cancer research at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and in academia. He holds a PhD in biochemistry and molecular and cell biology from Cornell University.

Dr Fagan became an early voice in the scientific debate on genetic engineering when in 1994 he took an ethical stand challenging the use of germline gene therapy (which has subsequently been banned in most countries) and genetic engineering in agriculture. He underlined his concerns by returning a grant of around $614,000 to the US National Institutes of Health, awarded for cancer research that used genetic engineering as a research tool. He was concerned that knowledge generated in his research could potentially be misused to advance human germline genetic engineering (for example, to create “designer babies”), which he found unacceptable on grounds of both safety and ethics. For similar reasons, around the same time, he withdrew applications for two additional grants totalling $1.25 million from the NIH and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). In 1996 he founded one of the pioneering GMO testing and certification companies after realising that this could be useful to assist industry in providing consumers with the transparency that they desired regarding the presence of GMOs in foods.

Claire Robinson, MPhil is research director at Earth Open Source. She has a background in investigative reporting and the communication of topics relating to public health, science and policy, and the environment. She is an editor at GMWatch (www.gmwatch.org), a public information service on issues relating to genetic modification, and was formerly managing editor at SpinProfiles (now Powerbase).

 

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+21 # sark 2012-07-02 09:26
I would recommend that all send a link to/ copy of this to the senators and reps from their areas as well as sending it to Pres. Obama and Mrs. Obama. And, ask that GM stuff (I cannot call GM stuff food.) be labeled.
 
 
-1 # eadg 2012-07-04 12:44
Quoting sark:
I would recommend that all send a link to/ copy of this to the senators and reps from their areas as well as sending it to Pres. Obama and Mrs. Obama. And, ask that GM stuff (I cannot call GM stuff food.) be labeled.

Michelle Obama has an organic garden. Do you think they don't know about this? Do you think they care about us?
 
 
+21 # granny6 2012-07-02 09:28
I have not been able to eat corn or corn products for almost 15 years. I get terrible joint pain that ordinary OTC pain relievers will not stop. It keeps me awake at night. Once I stopped eating corn it went away. We cannot fool around with Nature and not expect her to clobber us.
 
 
-26 # ericlipps 2012-07-02 14:44
Quoting granny6:
I have not been able to eat corn or corn products for almost 15 years. I get terrible joint pain that ordinary OTC pain relievers will not stop. It keeps me awake at night. Once I stopped eating corn it went away. We cannot fool around with Nature and not expect her to clobber us.

Er . . . are you aware that corn, as we knlow it, is genetically engineered and always has been? The wild ancestor of modern corn is a plaant called teosinte, which bears only a few hard-shelled kernels and is edible only with vigorous preparation.

Where crops are concerned, it really makes no difference whether genetic engineering occurs in a laboratory or in a field, or whether the people doing it are scientists or Central American villagers. Practically no cropm we eat hasd not been extensively modified from its wild ancestor(s).
 
 
+17 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-07-02 19:40
Selective breeding is not DNA surgery, as every highschool biology student knows. Learn before you write, not after.
 
 
-25 # ericlipps 2012-07-02 14:53
Quote:
Conventional plant breeding, with the help of non-GM biotechnologies such as marker assisted selection, is a safer and more powerful method than GM to produce new crop varieties required to meet current and future needs of food production.
"Marker assisted delection" is genetic manipulation--s o is plain old plant breeding of the sort practiced for thousands of years by peasants whlo used their wives as draft animals to plow their fields with digging sticks.

Look, I'm not crazy about the use companies like Monsanto have made of the new technologies. The're looking for the quick fix: make plants tolerant to (patented) pesticides or capable of producing pesticides themselves (not that plants don't do some of this already--where do you think Monsanto found the extra genes for its Bt crops?) But some of what I read here sounds less l;ike "let's be careful" than like "burn, witch, burn" or "Frankenstein must be destroyed."
 
 
+1 # DurangoKid 2012-07-05 10:48
The cause of your pain is a protein in corn that is a close match to one in your joints. When your immune system goes after the corn protein it gets tricked into going after your joints and causing arthritis. Corn eaters from Central American and the American southwest are rife with arthritis as was my corn eating grandmother. Humans should not eat corn. Or soy.
 
 
+9 # Califa 2012-07-02 10:10
From my personal observations and talking with people, when the subject of food comes up every single person has some kind of gastro-intestin al problem. I repeat, EVERY SINGLE PERSON I've talked with has a food intolerance that causes medical problems.
 
 
+18 # bluepilgrim 2012-07-02 11:13
I have type II diabetes -- I've never been fat and no one in my family was diabetic except my father who developed in his late 70s. I should have it.
I have fibromyalgia -- no one even heard of that when I was young. Also IBS.

All my neighbors when I moved here had diabetes, and one has fibro.

This kind of stuff is everywhere. Pesticides? Food? Pollution? Whatever -- the environment is destroying us!

I try to keep current on food, chemicals, climate change, wars, politics, education, economy, product hazards, technology, computer viruses and privacy concerns, legal abuses, social disruption, propaganda -- the list is near endless. I can't begin to keep up. When the government is bought by the fascists who have virtually endless supplies of money and manpower, who can keep up with it all?

We the people have to work out some system of specialization to handle the vast complexity and all the sneaky back-door stuff being done to us. It's what government and its agencies was supposed to do, for a while, was doing, before it was taken over by the wealthy. Food and drug safety was a big part of that. Now it's enemy within -- but the answer is not to reduce government but make it work as it should -- get the gangsters out.

If we don't do that... well, I'll say goodby to everyone while I still can because I don't know when I'll drop dead, be blown up, or be carted off to a gulag -- or when you will.
 
 
+7 # duitdon 2012-07-02 11:17
THERE ARE TOO MANY REASONS TO STOP AND THEN GO SLOW.
 
 
+7 # Mrcead 2012-07-02 11:48
Naturally. What creature on this planet has the information in its DNA to "properly metabolise" GM foods without suffering any ill effects, except for Monsanto's Teenage Mutant Ninja Rootworms and certain bacteria strains?
 
 
+5 # jlg 2012-07-02 12:04
The world is now closing in on GM crops, so we can expect some theatrical dying moments from their commercial pushers, in terms of buying political action (for example, criticizing any processed food to be illegal - like obtaining evidence of wrongdoing at CAFUs is now illegal). Let's be prepared!
 
 
+3 # Bob P 2012-07-02 17:22
Point 24 is a key statement. Because GM can be, and is, used in ways that do not contribute to feeding the hungry does not disprove that it can be a vital tool. It appears that now,the most profitable use of GM of corn provides unhappy consequence. In the short run the best solution may well be to make GM illegal. But government regulation like food additive or new drug procedures could separate beneficial GM products from deleterious GM products. We could allow sale of the former and prevent sale of the latter, but the current political climate does not look good for public safety or beneficial progress.
 
 
+4 # Tippitc 2012-07-02 20:02
It has gotten to the point where if some government agency, 99% of congresspeople, big banks, agribusiness, etc, etc, - if their lips are moving, they are lying!! This includes mainstream media also. I never thought I would be so cynical, but this seems to be the world we live in.
 
 
+6 # Babe 2012-07-03 02:56
When I switched to ALL ORGANIC foods, my health improved 100% I didn't know beforehand why I was tired all the time and had a hard time losing weight until 3 years ago when I decided to eat only organically produced foods. Man!! What an improvement! The veggies taste entirely different, like they did when I was a kid, and the fruits are wonderful again. We feel so priviledged to live in an area of many organic food stores and local farmer's markets. Don't tell ME that all fruits and vegetables are the same! I garden, swim, do yoga daily, lost weight, and feel great. And believe me, I am no young chick, either.
 
 
+6 # Edwina 2012-07-03 10:06
Today's newspaper carries a story of drug companies misrepresenting their products, and making billions of dollars selling them. Whistle-blowers and gov't agents caught up with them years later. This should be a cautionary tale: unregulated capitalism is no friend to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. Only after tremendous damage has been done do corporations (sometimes) get slapped with a fine. No one goes to jail. Doubts about GMO foods surfaced more than a decade ago. Meanwhile, their production has skyrocketed. And the corporations that produce them are fighting even the effort to label them. Where is our "by and for the people" gov't?
 

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